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Union and Its Territory(Part - 1 of the Constitution)

Read in detail about the Union and Its Territory(Part – 1 of the Constitution)

The first part of the Indian Constitution contains Articles 1 to 4. It deals with the Indian Union and its territories.

Let’s study them one and by one.

Article – 1 : 

  • It describes India ‘that is Bharat’  as a ‘Union of States’ and mentions the  territorial extent of India.
  • Although the Indian Constitution is federal in structure, the country is described as ‘Union’ in the constitution.
  • Reasons for calling India ‘Union’ and NOT a Federation:
    •  India is not the result of an agreement among the states like the American Federation.
    • In India, The states have no right to break away from the union. The Union is indestructible which integrates various destructible states.
  • Territory of India can be categorized into three different categories: 
    • Territories of the states.
    • Union territories.
    • Territories that may be acquired by India at any time as India is a sovereign nation.

Article – 2 : 

  • Grants two powers to the Parliament:
    • The power to admit into the Union of India new states.
    • The power to create entirely new states which might not be part of India previously. For example, Sikkim through a plebiscite, was made a part of India. 

Article – 3 : 

  • Grants following powers to the Parliament:
    • Parliament can form a new state by separating any territory from any state or by uniting two or more states
    • Parliament can form a new state by uniting any territory to any state
    • Parliament can increase the area of any state
    • Parliament can decrease the area of any state
    • Parliament can alter the boundaries of any state
    • Parliament can alter the name of any state.
  • However, the powers granted under article 3 are not absolute and the constitution adds following restrictions while proving above powers to parliament:
    • A bill which proposes any of the above changes can be introduced in the Parliament only with the prior recommendation of the President.
    • Before recommending the bill to Parliament, the President has to refer the same to the concerned state legislature for expressing its views within a specified period of time. 
    • The President/Parliament is not bound by the views expressed by the state legislature and may either completely or partially accept or reject them.
    • In case of a union territory with legislature like Delhi and Puducherry, the constitution clarifies that no such reference is required.

Article 3 has provided such powers to the parliament so that it can redraw the political map of India according to the demands of time and administrative convenience. 

A recent example is the formation of Ladakh as a union territory from the state of Jammu and Kashmir aimed to improve governance and cater to the needs of Ladakh’s people and at the same time highlighting that the unity and integrity of India is paramount.

As the territorial integrity of any Indian state is not guaranteed by the constitution hence India is described as ‘an indestructible union of destructible states’.

As the territorial integrity of the states in the USA is guaranteed by the Constitution, Hence, the USA is described as ‘an indestructible union of indestructible states.’ 

Article – 4 : 

  • It clarifies that the laws made for the establishment of new states or changing the  areas, boundaries or names of existing states under Articles 2 OR 3 shall not be considered as amendments of the Constitution under Article 368.
  • Such laws can be passed by a simple majority and by following ordinary legislative process. However, prior recommendation of the President will be mandatory as mentioned above.

Can Parliament cede/transfer Indian territory to any foreign country?

  • In Berubari Union case of 1960, The Supreme Court ruled that the power of parliament under Article 3 does not provide for the cession of Indian territory to a foreign country. 
  • Hence, Indian territory can only be transferred to a foreign state by amending the Constitution under Article 368.
  • The Supreme Court in 1969 ruled that the settlement of a boundary dispute between India and other countries does not require a constitutional amendment. It can be done by executive action.

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